Saturday, April 07, 2007
Its Not Just The Weather That's Cold
This one was bitter, and I am not just talking about the Frigid Weather. Our Washington Nationals continued to struggle at the plate, not delivering in the clutch. Once again, a Nats Starting Pitcher did not have his best stuff early. Both combining with a decent effort by Arizona's Brandon Webb on the mound tonight to shutdown The Nats and give The Arizona Diamondbacks a, never in doubt, 7-1 win at RFK Stadium.
Nothing seemed to find its groove for Washington or its fans. Even the appearance of all 4 "Noise Boys" for the first time this season in Section 320, PROVIDED NO MAGIC. The low 30 Degree Weather affecting, not only Our Washington Nationals, but also the noise level behind the 3rd Base Dugout. When your knees are shaking and your teeth chattering in the frigid air, its hard to get excited when nothing was happening on the field of play.
Since Dimitri Young hit his game winning fly single on Wednesday afternoon to score Kory Casto against Florida, not a single Nationals hitter has knocked in a runner from scoring position. Collectively, Washington going 0-24 over the past three games. Worse, throughout the course of the first six games of 2007, Our Washington Nationals have NEVER LED in a single game before a pitch was put into play. That's remarkable. Our bats are cold, and as the struggles go deeper into this very early part of the season, it appears, some players are trying to do to much, in an attempt to pick up the slack of others. These guys just need to relax and have a good game. Too many are forgetting their game plans, swinging at far too many first pitches, and out thinking themselves at the plate.
Maybe Livan Hernandez can provide some medicine tomorrow. Livo, The King Of The Hill for difficult first innings, (a scene Washington fans came to know well in 2005 & 2006) faces his former teammates tomorrow. As much as I love Number 61, The Nationals need to bat around on him a few times. Just one good solid win, can turn the attitude around.
John Patterson was given his second start of the season. And, like The Home Opener, he struggled mightily in the very first inning. JP labored through 31 pitches, consistently rotating his right throwing shoulder, and looked completely uncomfortable. By the time Number 22 found a groove, he had given up 2 walks, a single, a two RBI scoring double by Chad Tracey to left and a sacrifice fly by Tony Clark. When the first inning ended, once again, The Nationals down three runs before taking their first at bats. Although, Patterson would make it through 5 innings, shutting down The Diamondbacks for the remainder of his outing. Unfortunately, the damage was done.
After 88 pitches, exactly half (44) for strikes, 4 hits and 4 walks, John was replaced by Jesus Colome. Colome would proceed to put the game away for good. In one inning of work, Jesus allowed three hits, one walk and three runs. 6-0 now, and many in the ANNOUNCED crowd of 16,617 headed for the warmth of their cars. By the time this one was over, only a few hundred were actually still watching baseball at RFK STADIUM.
Our Nationals only real chance tonight came early, when, with one out, in the third inning--Felipe Lopez and Kory Casto both lined solid singles and were followed by a Ryan Zimmerman walk to load the bases. Only to see Dimitri Young ground into a rally killing 4-6-3 double play. The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, Webb, was not at his best on this cold night. But, despite going to the mound in short sleeves (to everyone's surprise) he battled through 7 innings of 7 hit and three walk ball. Each time Brandon got into trouble, he stepped up to strike out The Washington Hitter (8 times) or induce them into a double play grounder (twice). That's the sign of a quality pitcher, delivering when you don't have your best stuff.
Washington would get its only score in the bottom of the sixth with 2 outs, when Austin Kearns would hammer Webb's first pitch to him down the left field line at the foul pole. Third Base Umpire Jerry Meals ruled the ball a home run--giving the home crowd something to cheer for. Although replays showed the ball to clearly land in foul territory. The call stood, despite a 5 minute protest by Arizona's Manager Bob Melvin.
With the game well out of hand now, Our Manager--Manny Acta, sent out Chad Cordero to get some work in the 9th. Showing some rust from getting virtually no work during the first week of the 2007 season, "The Chief" was not sharp. Number 32 gave up 3 hits, including a homer to left by Eric Byrnes in 21 total pitches. You could tell, when he walked off the field after his 9th inning mop up job, he was very unhappy with himself. Cordero needs some more consistent work.
Through the first six games of 2007, Our Washington Nationals have managed only 1 win. They have not looked good, in just about any capacity. Starting pitching has been less than stellar. On defense, fundamental mistakes are hurting them. And, at the plate, their bats, just like the weather, extremely cold right now. This team needs a blowout, hopefully, our Old Friend, Livan Hernandez can provide that relief on Easter Sunday.
Game Notes & Highlights
Twice Tonight, Nats leftfielder Kory Casto over threw the cutoff man on hits to left. Both times allowing the trail runner to move up. Kory, hit the cutoff man.
In the bottom of the 7th inning, D'Angelo Jimenez was in the game replacing Ronnie Belliard at second. Jimenez drew a walk. Felipe Lopez would then ground a routine hopper up the middle to the second base side of the bag. Diamondbacks second basemen Orlando Hudson moved in and snared the grounder. With D'Angelo running hard toward second, attempting to break up the double play, Hudson paused, attempting to tag out Jimenez and throw to first for the double play. The very instant Hudson moved forward to tag D'Angelo, Jimenez stopped dead in his tracks and backed up. Orlando, confused, decided to throw the ball to first, slinging it off his wrong foot. The ball bounced well in front of the bag. Both Jimenez and FLop safe. Very strange play. All Hudson had to do was wait and tag out Jimenez or toss the ball to Stephen Drew standing on second to get the lead runner. Instead, he rushed and got no one out. Really, it was odd. One of those moments that comes along in a game, that you have never seen before.
In the top of the 8th inning, The Diamondbacks Robby Hammock would hit a high chopper down the third baseline in the infield. Ryan Zimmerman, performing a defensive move as fine as you will ever see the play made, charged in, gloved the ball, while crossing over into foul territory, and unleashed a GORGEOUS underarm sideways toss to Dimitri Young at first. There is NO PLAYER in Major League Baseball that consistently makes that play as well as Ryan Zimmerman.
MickNats would surprise MY BEST FRIEND & The African Queen tonight. Apparently TOPPS Trading Cards, The Baseball Card Company, has produced a special series of Mascot Trading Cards in 2007. MickNats showed up with both the regular edition card of Screech and the limited edition Gold Foil Numbered One. MickNats nicely presented a set to The African Queen, and another to SCREECH. The Queen was very pleased. Screech broke down and cried, hugging MickNats, thanking him for his kindness.
Finally, Section 320 was honored again tonight by Mr. Ed Cordero. Chad's Father joined us, sitting in Section 320 for the entire game. He and The African Queen sharing blankets to stay warm. Mr. Cordero was great. He is a very kind and considerate man. Although, he can't wait to get back to the warmth of Southern California.
Game Photos-AP, Susan Walsh